Fact or Fiction: Hiccups can be cured?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

hiccup
“You mean my hiccups were curable all this time?”

Hiccups are about as annoying as the common house fly. Both seem to sneak up on you, and despite your most heroic efforts, both are difficult to get rid of! Well, what exactly are hiccups and how’s an irritated kid to get rid of them?

Simply stated, hiccups occur when our diaphragm – a partially voluntary muscle lying underneath the lungs that controls breathing – begins to contract against our will. The spasms force air into our unsuspecting bodies and effectively slam our vocal cords shut, which then causes the all-too-familiar “hiccup” sound to escape from our lips.

Okay, it’s nice to know how hiccups occur, but what exactly causes them? Sorry to burst your bubble, but unfortunately the whole phenomenon is still a mystery to scientists. Some of their best guesses include that eating or drinking too much, inhaling air too quickly, and even certain emotions may bring on the fit. While there’s no exact cause for the tricky hiccup, there are some helpful cures that’ll save you frustration.

Interestingly enough, most of them seem to revolve around increasing the body’s levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) – a gas byproduct we release during exhalation (breathing out). One way to do this is to simply hold your breath for about 10-20 seconds. This will cause the CO2 to build up in your lungs just enough to stop the hiccups. Alternatively, breathe into a brown bag for about 20-30 seconds; the exhaled CO2 will build up in the bag and have the same effect as holding your breath. Finally, a short, 1 minute session of exercise – like 25 jumping jacks or jogging in place – should chase the hiccups right out of you.

If your hiccups last for more than 48 hours, some experts recommend scheduling an appointment with the doctor to make sure it’s not a symptom of something more serious. After all, you don’t want to end up like the world-record-breaking guy who suffered from hiccups for 68 years straight!

Image of spooked kid courtesy of Robbie Grubbs on Flickr.